a poem published in the 5th Glosters Gazette in September 1916.

We hear of the Anzacs, the Highlanders, the Guards,
Their names are gilded gloriously, and sung by many bards.
But WE know – and THEY know – of other men as fine –
The good old County Regiments – the Regiments of the line.

For them no vivid writer lets loose his fluent pen;
for them no correspondent tells where and how and when;
of their glory, in a story, they write the tale anew –
The old County Regiments, that fight along of you.

The Glosters, the Wiltshire’s – they’ve done their bit.
The Berkshires and the Devon’s, as fighting men they’re IT!
They show it, we know it! They’ve marched and fought like hell,
those old County Regiments and dozens more as well.

The Ox's, the Bucks, and the Lancashire’s are fine,
but of their fight for days and nights we never read a line.
The Dorset’s, the Worcester’s, the Warwick’s, too, can fight!
And surely they might have SOME of the glory that’s their right.

In lofty dim cathedrals their battle- standards blaze,
In scrolled in gold with fights of old, and, after many days
they shall return and claim them, and newer names shall shine,
more proudly yet on the Colours of the Regiments of the line.

Drink to the gallant Anzacs, drink to the Kiltie's, too!
They’re bonny, bonny fighters – we know them, and it’s true.
Toast them, and all their valour! And then I’ll give you mine –
The old County Regiments – the Regiments of the Line.


October 2006

Saturday will sadly see the last Bristol parade of the Glosters veterans. Gerry Brooke looks back at this long established and much honoured regiment

The "Glorious Glosters", once a proud county regiment, had many of its soldiers coming traditionally from the Bristol area. But Saturday, March 26, 1994 - the very last time that they marched under that name - was a day of mixed emotions.

For just a month later the old 28th and 61st of Foot - the "Old Buffs" as they were known - was amalgamated with the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment to become the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment.

And in just a few months time they will be amalgamated yet again - this time with the Devon and Dorset's and the Royal Green Jackets - and renamed The Rifles.

The Glosters have a long and distinguished history stretching back to 1694, when the Lieutenant Governor of Portsmouth, Colonel John Gibson, decided to raise a new regiment of foot. This regiment passed through several hands - each time taking its new colonel's name.

Its first overseas posting, in 1697, was to Canada to protect English settlers from the French. Eight years later, in 1705, it was in the Netherlands, again fighting the French. It was here, under the Duke of Marlborough, that the regiment won its first battle honour.

In 1734, after Colonel Philip Bragg had taken command, the regiment became known by its much cherished nickname "Old Bragg's". A popular leader, Bragg remained in charge until his death in 1759.

In that year the regiment sailed again to Canada. Fighting under General Wolfe, who was to lose his life there, it helped take Quebec from the French. And ever since that day the soldiers have honoured his memory by wearing a black line in their tie.

Distinguished by its bright yellow facings, the 28th, as the regiment was known, was joined, in 1782, by the 2nd Battalion of the Buffs. After the two had amalgamated the Gloucestershire Regiment came into being - and the "Glosters" name was born.

In 1801 the men found themselves in Egypt as part of a force sent to halt Napoleon's seemingly unstoppable march towards that jewel in the Empire's crown, India.

The French navy, responsible for landing troops in Egypt, had already been defeated by Nelson's fleet, but a large army remained - and still posed a threat.

A vastly superior force then attacked the outnumbered British near Alexandria.

In those days muzzle-loading rifles were in common use and the infantry fought in two ranks - one row kneeling with the rear rank firing over their shoulders.

At one point during the fierce conflict - when it looked as though the Glosters would be surrounded - the rear rank was commanded to "about face" and fight back-to-back against enemy soldiers coming from that quarter.

After much savage hand-to-hand combat, the French were stopped and their entire army put into retreat. As a reward for their vital contribution to this victory - and in memory of that back-to-back fighting - the Glosters were given the right to wear a badge at the back, as well as the front, of their caps - the famous sphinx Back Badge.

Napoleon's army in Egypt might have been defeated, but on the European mainland his forces remained a serious threat.

In Spain it took four years of difficult fighting - in which the Glosters lost 1,200 men - before the British, under the command of the "Iron" Duke of Wellington, finally expelled them from the peninsula.

In 1814, Napoleon, having escaped from Elba, once more rallied troops to his cause and the European allies - under the command of the Duke - were sent to face him.

As we know the "Little Emperor" was finally defeated at Waterloo and exiled to the island of St Helena.

The Glosters, in the forefront of the fighting, were the only regiment specifically mentioned by name in Wellington's famous dispatch.

Throughout early Victorian times, as the British Empire consolidated, the soldiers were kept busy, particularly in India.

Then, in 1854, the regiment, decimated by cholera, found itself fighting against Russian imperial expansion in the Crimea.

And at the end of the century it was shipped to South Africa to fight in the Boer War.

The Glosters, involved in the First World War from the very start, soon found themselves in France. By the time that terrible war ended four years later, the Glosters had raised no fewer than 24 battalions and lost more than 8,000 men.

In 1939, at the start of the last war, the Glosters entered France to a very different scenario - England was threatened by immediate invasion.

In the spring of 1940, after holding back the German advance for four vital days while 350,000 soldiers were evacuated from Dunkirk, almost the entire 2nd Battalion was captured.

But four years later, after the D-day landings, it was back and on the way to the final defeat of Nazi Germany.

At the same time the 1st Battalion of the Glosters was in Burma fighting the Japanese.

Later, the 10th Battalion played a prominent role in the recapture of the country. But, by the end of hostilities, in 1945, nearly 1,000 men had been lost.

Later, in Korea, the regiment played a crucial role in the now legendary Battle of the Imjin River.

The war began when the South Koreans were invaded by the North - their communist neighbours. The West decided that this aggression must be resisted and, in 1950, the Glosters, as part of a UN force, were dispatched there.

As the North, aided by the communist Chinese, advanced rapidly towards Seoul, the Glosters were given the formidable task of holding them back. The brave men held out for four days against a Chinese force 10 times their size.

Finally - having run out of food, water and ammunition and completely surrounded - they were ordered to break out. Only 63 men made it back. Those still left alive were captured and incarcerated in prisoner of war camps for the next two years.

It was this heroic stand against overwhelming odds that earned the regiment the title of the "Glorious Glosters".

President Truman later awarded it the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation - the blue insignia still worn by members of the regiment to this day.

The commanding officer, Ltn Colonel James Carne, who was captured, received the Victoria Cross, the regiment's eighth.

By the early 1950's the regiment carried more battle honours than any other in the British army. Since those glory days, the Glosters have been posted overseas on many occasions, lately to Afghanistan, and been involved in a variety of peace-keeping roles.

And, although the regiment is no more, the famous Sphinx back badge - worn so proudly ever since that famous victory over Napoleon's troops - will live on, at least on ceremonial occasions.